The good news about valve-related issues is that most people who get treatment are able to recover and continue to live full and healthy lives. People like Former President Clinton, David Letterman, Barbara Walters and Arnold Schwarzenegger have been open about their heart valve repairs and recoveries.
What if my doctor says I don’t need treatment now but that I may need it later?
Anyone with a congenital heart defect such as a bicuspid valve, a prolapsed or leaky valve, mitral valve prolapse, a stiffened valve, a previous heart valve surgery, and some people with heart murmurs should faithfully schedule and attend all recommended follow-up appointments so that the condition can be monitored.
When a valve has problems, a healthcare professional will need to carefully track the outflow of blood, possible damage to the other heart chambers and blood vessels, any symptoms you may notice and the pressure around the valve.
Seek Clarity About Your Potential for Risks
If you have a potential heart valve problem or a repaired or replaced heart valve, be sure you clearly communicate with your medical professional to get answers to the following questions:
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- Do I have any restrictions regarding exercise and how long should I keep my heart rate elevated?
- Should I pay careful attention to how high my heart rate climbs during exercise?
- What symptoms should I be sure to document if I notice them?
- Are there any types of medical emergencies for which I am at higher risk because of my valve problem?
- How important is regular follow up care for this condition?
- How often should I be rechecked?
- Do I need to keep track of my own scheduling or does your office help me remember when I am due for my next appointment?
If your valve problems remain manageable without causing damage to your heart or noticeable symptoms, your medical professional may feel that it’s working “well enough” and may advise there is little cause for concern and to focus on healthy lifestyle choices. You and your healthcare professional may decide that your best option is to keep the valve you have and continue to monitor your condition.
However, if you begin noticing symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort, lightheadedness, feeling faint, or noticing that you are short of breath, your heart valve function may be getting worse. If your heart is having to work harder than it should, it may be time to consider your replacement and repair options. Your medical professional will help you determine the best option for you.